Worthing councillor 'relieved' to have Conservative Party membership restored

A Worthing Conservative councillor has welcomed news that his party membership has been reinstated following an investigation.

Northbrook ward councillor Russ Cochran sat as an independent following a party investigation which saw his membership suspended for six months. But he is now representing residents as a Conservative once again.

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A Conservative Party hearing panel concluded that the tweets were ‘made outside of the party remit at the time so cannot be considered as such’ but it did ask for them to be removed, which has now happened.

Russ Cochran has been reinstated by the Conservative Party following an investigation into historic tweets

Mr Cochran was also asked to apologise to the party chairman and had his membership suspended for six months.

Worthing Borough Council received a conduct complaint in November 2021 but decided not to investigate as the tweets were more than six months old and Mr Cochran was not a councillor when he wrote them.

Mr Cochran says he was left ‘in pain’ during the suspension and that some of the tweets were made in anger and taken out of context.

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he is relieved to once again be able to sit on committees.

“It was a silly misconstrued thing and I’m not trying to brush it under the carpet,” he said.

“I was angry at the time – the rhetoric is completely misconstrued.

“I’ve been in pain from it. Because my wife is disabled, my son’s got autism, so every day is diverse day for me.

“I would’ve stayed independent as I’m not happy with the party anyway – they know that and I’ve said radical reform is needed if I come back in.

“But I can sit on committees now, that’s more important to me than anything.”

Mr Cochran also posted a public apology to Facebook last year, saying: ‘We are all born equal’ and ‘I was wrong back then’.

“The ability for me to make this realisation that I was wrong back then, and issue this very statement to apologise speaks volumes, especially when others are less forthcoming when questions are raised about those in public life or proposing to be in it,” read the statement.

WBC’s Conservative group leader Kevin Jenkins (Goring ward) said: “The matter in its entirety has now concluded its course and [Mr Cochran’s] membership of the party has been reactivated, hence why he now stands again as a Conservative councillor.”

Mr Cochran has said he will continue to focus on providing youth facilities in his Northbrook ward.

“All the positives massively outweigh this one negative bump,” he said.

Following an election earlier this month, Labour has 23 seats, with the Conservatives on 13 following Mr Cochran’s reinstatement, with one Liberal Democrat.